If I Spoke in Real Life the Way I Do in My Blog

As pictured in The New Yorker Magazine

It occurred to me today that I would be a lot less tense all the time if I were able to let the snarkfest that is my blog out in my regular life as well.  Think of the possibilities:  for one, I could be more honest; for two, I could poke fun freely at all the things I love to poke fun at without the fear of consequences.  Have any of you ever seen that New Yorker cartoon (pictured above) where the dog says “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog?”  On the Internet, you can craft whatever personality you want – be it nice and sweet when you’re really an asshole; or a complete socialite when you’re really shy and quiet.  This is all the more reason we should always be cognizant of this fact:  that who our online personalities are may or may not actually reflect who we are in real life.  Never believe what you read on the Internet is the old adage, which remains to be the case today.

In my case, it isn’t that nobody knows who I really am because I have crafted some deceptive identity on the Internet, though; it’s that (as many of us experience) the Internet is often the only place I really express myself to the fullest extent.  By and large, it’s my writing in general (not just online) that I allow myself to really come out.  And this morning it finally dawned on me that life would be so much better if I could be as snarky, witty, and silly as I am in my blog in real life, since a synthesis of the writer/blogger Heather and the in-person Heather best describes the real me.

Imagine what chaos would ensue, though, if I were to say some of the things I say on this blog in person…

Remember my blogs about Mr. Biglesworth and Cat Day?  I imagine actually saying face-to-face to a cat owner (or even just cat lover) would be disastrous.

Or in my recent blog about Why I Hate Wal-Mart… I can only begin to imagine what those crazy Wal-Mart shoppers would do if they heard me talking about their precious store of deals and roll-back prices in the way that I did.

I can’t even begin to fathom what my mother-in-law must think of some of my posts, and were I to actually say those things to her in person…

 And were I to tell any of the many people I encounter that actually inspire my B(itch)Log Lessons in Grammar and Punctuation, I imagine I would actually have fewer friends than I already do.

I think some of my more recent posts would have been the most inflammatory as well were they said in person.  As time has gone on, I have become more and more comfortable with just speaking what I really think and feel – as long as it’s from the safety and security of my private laptop.  That’s the thing about bloggers:  they often get accused of never putting their money where their mouths are.  In other words, they talk an awful lot of shit but only if they can hide behind their modems and computer screens.  Ultimately, though, I think if I were to actually say some of these things in person it would unambiguously cause people hurt feelings.  It would probably be rude.  It would almost certainly create enemies out of people I otherwise enjoy spending time with.

In the end, it’s about finding a balance – one where you can feel comfortable being honest but not cross the line.  To be funny and witty, but never move into bully territory.  Can I do such a thing?  Only time will tell…

Things I Would Prefer You Not Post Online

Thanks for the photo, Metropolitan Mama

When I got home today, I logged on to my Facebook page to see what had happened through the course of the day.  Expecting the usual Saturday fair of “fun in the sun” posts, the occasional article, and baby pictures by the dozen, I was rather shocked to see at the top of my newsfeed a photograph of a woman shaving her husband’s horribly hairy back.

The general rule of thumb with the Internet is that you shouldn’t share anything on there that you wouldn’t share in person.  It is true that in many senses the Internet is replacing in-person experience, but the fact remains that it is both (a) public interaction, and (b) held among people you generally consider yourself to acquaintance in real life.

There are a lot of things I would prefer people not share with me in person, and many of those transcend onto the Internet.  While some are more tolerable when I’m sitting behind the privacy of my own computer, it nonetheless stands that there is a general standard of Things I Would Prefer You Not Post Online.  My mother-in-law always uses the “but it’s like family” argument – but that is a weak one.  No matter who you are, no matter how you are associated with me – there are just some things I don’t want to know.  Here are some of them:

1.  I do not want to know if you just ate a big meal and are now in the bathroom.  Really I can do without all references to bowel movement.  Call me crazy, but I like to keep the privacy of the bathroom … well, private.

Thanks for the photo, Pointless Blather

2.  I do not wish to see pictures of you performing basic hygienic functions.  This includes, but is not limited to, shaving your legs, shaving your back, shaving your pits, shaving any other part of your body that mentioning would upgrade this blog post to PG-13, washing yourself, scraping your tongue, and (most importantly) cleaning … anything.  I will admit, I have cracked an occasional joke about May No Shave Month, but that does not mean I would ever post photos of it.  Please, do me the same courtesy.

3.  It would be totally awesome if you would spare me your relationship drama.  Switching your Facebook status from “in a relationship” to “single” is one thing; blathering note after note, status after status, about all your back-and-forth dramas is another.  Announcing that you are officially divorced is one thing; crying for attention through vague and intentionally dramatic posts is another.

4.  Back to the bathroom, could you please spare me the commentary on your child’s bowel and bathroom habits?  No one thinks all the status updates about your new baby soiling everything around him is cute.  No one enjoys to hear that your toddler is constipated on her sing-a-long potty.  The children’s book is called “Everybody poops,” but that doesn’t mean everybody wants to know about it.

5.  If you are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, et. all to brag about all the mundane, pointless details of your life that bear no consequence to anyone or anything, then fine.  That’s not why I’m on any of them, though.  I’m sure the majority of the world would agree with me – social networking does not mean we need to be with you at all times, from get up and shower, to laundry and bed.  As much as you may think that we all enjoy hearing that you are on your way home to take a nap, or that you’re heading out to another day of work, I think your updates would be much more meaningful if only they carried some sort of meaning.

6.  Check-ins are cool, but not when it’s at your home, or (worse) in your bed.  Why is it even an option for people to create GPS-locatable check-in points at their own home, or (worse) in their beds?  Nothing is worse than logging in to Facebook to see that “Jane Smith and John Doe just checked in to Jane’s Bed.”  Thank you, but we all really (a) don’t care, and (b) don’t want to imagine you getting it on.

I suppose the general idea needs to be reiterated:  if you wouldn’t tell people about it in person, keep it off the Internet.  And, really – if you would tell people about it in person, then society likely isn’t the place for you.  Close friends, family – doesn’t matter who … privacy has a meaning.  Learn it.

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Body Odor

There are so many advantages to the Internet.  Beyond networking, sales, job opportunities, access to information, online dating, friend-making, gaming, entertainment, free and inaccurate diagnosis of all your medical ailments, event information, and the like, it is a really great way to avoid contact with other people as much as is humanly possible.  With the rapid modernization of the technologies involved in computer and cell phone interfacing, a person need not ever interact with others if they chose to do so.

Of course, there are probably a myriad of mental disorders such hermit-ish behavior fall under.

Touters of networking giants, like Facebook and Twitter, are now releasing statements that their sites are not a replacement for the value of real, in-person relationships.  And they are not.  (Gee, thanks for telling us, guys … us lemmings really were too busy letting you think for us to realize that…)  But beyond that there is another oft-undiscussed thing that is of real concern in this, the age of technology:  the loss of body language.

So, it would stand to reason that if roughly 50% of our communication is done through gesture and body language, if you lose the ability to do so, the results might be … well, bad.

Take for example the following scenario:  let’s say I am your friend and I send you the following email.

Hey.  So I really think you need to go Danielle’s bachelorette party.  You know how she gets when people don’t come to her things and, anyway, you don’t have anything else going on this weekend anyway.  So I’ll see you there.

While I very well may have just been trying to be a good friend to you and our mutual friend, Danielle, my email sounds more like I’m telling you what to do and implying that I can do as such.

And how many times have you gotten a response like this to a lengthy email inquiring about something important to you?

No.

It seems that a cut-and-dry email or message such as that would make things more streamlined, more efficient you might say.  But without body language, a simple No sounds a lot more like anger, scoff, frustration, or carelessness.  How dare that inconsiderate-responder not at least explain himself!

So while it may seem that the Internet is a great way to avoid people and their weird odors; plus help us avoid confrontation, do things at your own leisure and ease, and take risks and chances you might otherwise not take behind the safety of your own, personal computer, nothing can substitute an occasional healthy dose of body language.  The flailing gestures, the facial cues, the body positioning, and even (in some cases) the scents (pheromones) are so integral in human communication it seems that despite all its advantages, this is just another way that the Internet is doing a great disservice to our culture.